DENVER – Colorado has joined 21 other states in filing a federal lawsuit challenging whether a new Title X rule that would significantly restrict access to reproductive health services and information for women and families is constitutional or not.
Title X is the only federal grant program that funds family planning programs to help patients access contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, well-woman exams, STD testing, and other health-related services.
Under the new rule, providers in any clinic that receives Title X funding will be barred from referring a patient for an abortion, and in many situations from even discussing abortion with a patient.
“Because of the administration’s overreach and interference … physicians will be prohibited from having open, frank conversations with their patients about all their health care options,” said the AMA’s president, Dr. Barbara McAneny. “This blatant violation of patients’ rights under the Code of Medical Ethics is untenable.”
The new rule also mandates a referral for prenatal care for every pregnant patient, regardless of their needs or wishes.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in District Court in Eugene, Oregon alleges the Title X rule, if implemented, would reduce access and erode the quality of reproductive health care that the program was originally intended to provide for low-income individuals.
“Title X is a critical source of healthcare funding in Colorado. In 2017, Colorado received $3.8 million in federal funding, which provided a range of services- including general health screenings and a broad range of family planning methods- to more than 55,000 Coloradans throughout the state,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser. “If these rules go into effect, Colorado will see an increase in teen births, unintended pregnancies, and abortions.”
In Colorado, funding from Title X is combined with state general funds to help support family planning services.
The result of the rule, if implemented, “will be a national public health crisis in short order,” the lawsuit said.
Planned Parenthood says it will leave the Title X program if that rule is implemented, losing $60 million in annual funding rather than abide by the new restrictions.
This could have a huge impact: Planned Parenthood serves 1.6 million of the 4 million women who get care through Title X. The program, enacted in 1970, makes family-planning services available to low-income individuals for free or at low cost.
In the lawsuit, the AMA and Planned Parenthood asserted that the new rule violates a congressional mandate that patients receiving information about their pregnancies through Title X must receive complete, unbiased information about their options.
They argue that the ban on abortion referrals violates this mandate and unconstitutionally infringes on health care providers’ responsibilities to their patients.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for the procedure except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.
Religious conservatives and abortion opponents contend that Title X has been used to indirectly subsidize Planned Parenthood- the leading abortion provider in the U.S.
Groups such as the National Right to Life Committee have hailed the new rule, saying it does not cut funding, but “merely ensures that health facilities receiving Title X funds do not perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning.”
The new Trump administration rule is scheduled to take effect in 60 days but is likely to be delayed by litigation.
(The Assocaited Press contributed to this report)